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Evolution

Human Evolution Bones at Five Below!

Saturday evening, I was at Five Below with my daughter, shopping for a Christmas gift for a gift exchange (we got a lava lamp, in case you’re wondering) and came upon this little gem.

Human Evolution Bones Excavation Kit

I was amazed. I’d never seen any kind of evolution “toy” before other than the great stuff from Charlie’s Playhouse, but here was something at Five Below, of all places! It’s one of those archaeology, “dig out the treasure” types of toys. I’ve gotten them before with pirate coins and “Egyptian statues” and some other goodies, but seeing something with the words “Human Evolution” on the front was a bit of a shock… a pleasant one, but a shock nonetheless!

Here’s what’s on the box and what’s in the kit.

Human Evolution Bones Excavation KitHuman Evolution Bones Excavation KitHuman Evolution Bones Excavation Kit

There’s supposed to be model glue in the kit as well, but it wasn’t in the one I photographed. I bought three of them (they were priced at $3.50) so I could give one as a gift and have a spare for myself.

Interestingly enough, there were plenty of them on the shelf. I’m not sure if that’s significant or not, since Five Below usually has a lot of everything. Maybe I’ll go back in a few days and see if they’re selling or not. I have trouble seeing this as a big seller, though it would probably sell better here than it would in the bible belt. If you’re in a highly religious area and have a Five Below in your area, check it out and let me know if your store has them.

In the meantime, my daughter is anxious to start digging.

One of these things is not like the others

On the Origin of Species book collectionOne of these things is not like the other…

I added Ray Comfort’s edition of Darwin’s book to my collection yesterday. The font of his edition is intolerably small… except for his vacuous introduction, which is in a normal, easy to read font size.

I’m pretty sure I have a copy that was from the second printing because the original printing left out a few chapters. Comfort claimed that this was originally done to save money, because including all the chapters would have made the book too expensive for a free giveaway (or as Craig said, “too accurate”). For the second printing, Comfort says they reduced the font size and included every chapter and every word. In his own words, “Not one word will be omitted.”

Checking the table of contents of Comfort’s edition against an edition that I own, I found chapter VII to be missing, but upon further investigation, found that, in my edition, chapter VII (“Miscellaneous Objections to the Theory of Natural Selection”) is a later addition and was not included in the first edition of On the Origin of Species. I was somewhat surprised to find that Comfort’s edition is the first edition of Origin, not a later edition. Later editions had some capitulation to public (religious) pressure, such as the line at the end of the book (emphasis mine)…

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

The phrase “by the Creator” does not appear in the first edition, nor does it appear in Comfort’s version, so he must have chosen the first edition to bastardize with his introduction. I suspect, though this is pure speculation, that he chose the first edition because it has fewer words… thereby making his giveaway edition cheaper to produce.

So Comfort adds his silly introduction… partly plagiarization, partly invalid creationist propaganda, and partly nonsensical proselytizing… but he does choose the first edition to distribute.

…which is better for the rest of us.

Some quick notes from Borders

I’m hanging out at Borders this morning while waiting to pick up my daughter after a class she’s taking. I grabbed a copy of The Annotated Origin and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species – A Graphic Adaptation (like a graphic novel version of OTOOS) and am sipping on some coffee while hooked up to free wifi. It’s a good morning.

This isn’t my “home” Borders, so I went to the religion section to check out what they had to offer and to see how different it was from the Borders I normally frequent. This religion section is smaller, but had a nicer selection of atheist books. I did crack myself up when I noticed a section that was labeled “Christian Fiction” and thought to myself, Doesn’t that apply to this entire section?

I also saw a copy of Evolution for Dummies and considered (briefly) buying it and mailing it to Ray Comfort, but I figured that even a dumbed down version wouldn’t really help Ray… or Kirk, for that matter.

On another note, a friend of mine picked up a copy of Comfort and Cameron’s version of On the Origin of Species and is dropping it off at my house today.

It’ll be like the proverbial red-headed stepchild.

Evolutionary Shenanigans

Here’s another snippet about Palin’s newly-verified creationist beliefs from The Daily Beast.

In her new book…

…[Palin] finally comes out of the closet as a creationist—or as she puts it, “the C-word.” In doing so, however, she manages to obscure the extent of those creationist beliefs by citing her acceptance of “microevolution.”

Oh, microevolution! It’s the favorite “concession” by creationists, used so they can sound accepting of science and therefore feel more credulous when they dismiss Darwinian evolution.

Biologists use the phrase “microevolution” to refer to changes within a group of organisms over a relatively short period of time. The most-famous example is the peppered moth of England, which became darker over generations in response to pollution from a local factory that blackened the trees it relied on for camouflage, encouraging the survival of similarly colored moths. Because these changes are so easily observed, creationists tend to concede their existence. But only to a point: They do not acknowledge that over time, natural selection will lead to radically different new types of organisms, the process known as “macroevolution,” responsible for bigger leaps like birds evolving from dinosaurs.

What caught my eye about this article were two points. First, the author quotes Dr. David Menton, who, if you read my Creation Museum writeup, was the speaker for the Microscarium presentation at the museum. He’s a “scientist” (sarcasm quotes intentional) who, in his presentation, showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has almost zero understanding of evolution. Here’s the part with Menton.

The basis for this distinction is rooted in Christian doctrine, not science. According to Dr. David Menton, a staff scientist at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, microevolution is acceptable only if species vary within the same “kind,” a translation of a Hebrew phrase from the Old Testament describing the original sets of species that traveled on Noah’s ark.

“The point is you get a lot of different kinds of dogs but dogs remain dogs,” Menton said. “They don’t become cats.”

I find it interesting that he seems to admit his scientific claim isn’t based on science. The biblical “kind” argument is used constantly by creationists and figures prominently in the Creation Museum. There is no definition of “kind,” however, and it’s intentionally kept vague and nebulous so it can be used to support their arguments in whatever manner required.

Menton displays immense ignorance of evolution when he says that “dogs remain dogs… they don’t become cats.” Evolutionary theory doesn’t say that dogs become cats… or that chickens become horses… or that monkeys become people. What it does say is that minute changes build up gradually over a tremendous amount of time and eventually lead to speciation. Menton can’t accept this because, according to the bible, the universe is only about 6,000 years old, which doesn’t leave nearly enough time for evolution to occur.

The second point in the article that caught my eye was that Palin (and Menton) was refuted by an actual evolutionary scientist, Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True.

University of Chicago ecology and evolution professor at Jerry Coyne calls the passage in Palin’s book a “typical creationist ploy” easily refuted by fossil evidence suggesting transitions between animals as fish and amphibians or land animals and whales.

“Her stand is basically a biblically oriented stand…that has no basis in fact,” Coyne told The Daily Beast in an e-mail. “It is a ridiculous ploy of the ‘duck kind,’ i.e. a canard.”

Score one for Jerry Coyne.

One reason McCain lost my vote in 2008

Here’s an excerpt from a review by Michiko Kakutani of Sarah Palin’s new book, Going Rogue.

Elsewhere in this volume, she talks about creationism, saying she "didn’t believe in the theory that human beings — thinking, loving beings — originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea" or from "monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees." In everything that happens to her, from meeting Todd to her selection by Mr. McCain for the Republican ticket, she sees the hand of God: "My life is in His hands. I encourage readers to do what I did many years ago, invite Him in to take over."

If a candidate is so scientifically illiterate (or so intellectually stunted by unjustified religious dogma) that she doesn’t accept the theory of evolution, she has no business holding any position of authority in this country.

(via)

Ray and Kirk find an appropriate audience

In recognition of the “Origin of Species” giveaway promoted by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, Atheist Cartoons has put up this little gem so I thought I’d share it.

Atheist Cartoons - Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron

If you get a chance (and can stomach it), read the introduction (pdf) that Ray Comfort has written for the book. It’s got the standard creationist nonsense with Comfort’s simple-minded proselytizing.

Ray Comfort Loves His own Book

ignorance-posterRay Comfort the “ambush” evangelist and author has written his penultimate tour de force, Nothing Created Everything. Speaking of nothing, let’s talk about Ray’s sales figures compared to Richard Dawkins’. Dawkins released his book, The Greatest Show On Earth, the same day as Comfort’s. Dawkins’ book has been on Amazon’s top 100 list for 66 days now. Comfort’s book? (Now is the part where you hum the Jeopardy Game Show’s, “I’m thinking” music) It hasn’t made it there yet *Craig crosses fingers*.

It’s hard to believe that a man like Ray Comfort hasn’t hit a homerun with his latest tome. Out of all FIVE reviews on Amazon’s site it has one VERY complimentary review! And, oh wait. Who wrote the review? Why look, it was the author himself! Yeah, Ray “Banana Man” Comfort, objetively *gulp* reviewed his very own book. Well done Ray! Just when I thought your ethics hit a new low with your Michael Jackson Million Dollar Commemorative Tract, you prove me wrong again!

(Craig screams like Captain Kirk in Wraith of Khan, ” COMFORT!!!!!! “) Here is a link to Comfort’s brilliant expose on his own masterpiece, http://www.amazon.com/review/R3TFXA8B1XARBQ/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R3TFXA8B1XARBQ .  Please take note that “2 of 28 people found the review helpful”. I guess Ray’s wife and Kirk Cameron really appreciated his hard hitting review. I wonder what the book’s own website has to say about it in it’s reviews section? Let’s check: http://www.nothingcreatedeverything.com/category/reviews/ . Wow! What a shock there are…none. I guess there were too many positive reviews hitting the server and it crashed…uh huh, that’s it. It is worth noting that of the *giggle* five reviews on Amazon, Ray’s was the only positive one in support of his book.

To be fair the comments left by Comfort were less a review and more a promotion of his book. This still says nothing for the fact that there are only four legitimate reviews of this book. Four? FOUR? By the way none of the four were even positive.

The release of this book is only harder evidence for the non-existance of a God. For if there was a God, the skies would surely be filled with the rain made of his tears.

Michelle Bachman hasn’t a clue

"No one that I know disagrees with natural selection — that you can take various breeds of dogs … breed them, you get different kinds of dogs," she said. "It’s just a fact of life. … Where there’s controversy is (at the question) ‘Where do we say that a cell became a blade of grass, which became a starfish, which became a cat, which became a donkey, which became a human being?’ There’s a real lack of evidence from change from actual species to a different type of species. That’s where it’s difficult to prove."

– Michele Bachmann quoted in the Stillwater Gazette, September 29, 2003.

I’m going to let this one stand on its own for now.

Facebook makes for interesting discussions

A friend of mine posted a Facebook update this morning proclaiming that she is a Christian and proud of it, asking others to proclaim the same and to pray for others who join in. Here’s the text of her post [sic… but emphasis mine].

[Her name] Is a Christian and proud to say it!! Let’s see how many people on fb aren’t afraid to show their love for God! Repost this as your status. Each time you see this on someones status say a quick prayer for that person!! Let’s get God back in this country like He should be!!! If you agree post this in your status. Like/unlike write a comment.

That’s all pretty innocuous and she meant it as an upbeat comment to start the day… but she did solicit comments, and after a few positive responses with prayers (“Father I lift up [her name] to you right now and I ask you to flood her with your presence today.”), another poster hit upon the phrase I highlighted above. He said [sic]…

[His name] while I’m pleased to know that your religious perspectives bring you joy and peace, I have reservations about the comment “Let’s get God back in the country like He should be”. I’m not sure who says “He should be”, but it certainly was not our wise and enlightened founding fathers, who were careful to institute concepts like the seperation of church and state and freedom of (and from) religion. Spirituality is a personal path, to be kept in one’s heart. Once you start declaring that God should play a role in an entire country, you infringe upon the rights of people with a different belief system. A quick study of Saudi Arabia or Iraq shows what that can lead to.

Your post requested a comment, I’m sharing mine.

I found that a pretty fair response. Given our secular Constitution and the religiously diverse population in this country, I think the idea of putting “God back in this country” is, at the very least, a bad one. [His name] calls it out perfectly, saying that it would “infringe upon the rights of people with a different belief system” and points to perfect examples.

The response came quickly from [her name] and said [sic]…

[Her name] Our God teaches peace. Their Gods teach violence. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

I thought the response was first, missing the point and second, misinformed. So I responded with a simple…

[Me] In [his name’s] defense, a theocracy is a theocracy, regardless whose concept of a deity is used.

I thought maybe that bit of simplicity might help [his name’s] point hit home. It didn’t. [Her name] posted another bit about the god of Islam vs. the god of Christianity, but deleted it shortly thereafter. Then another poster joined in… and inspired me to write this blog post. She said [sic]…

[Supporter] It’s been quite awhile since I studied this, so I could be incorrect, but the reason why there was “separation between church and state” was so there was not a dictatorship as in England. They did not want the government to dictate how things should be handled…they wanted each jurisdiction to have the right to dictate that, which is the main reason America was even founded. Now, it is important to not that it was “One nation, Under God”….so that negates the theory that they didn’t want God to be a part of things…..I still also believe that if you view Creationism as a religious theory, than Evolution should also be a religious theory, and then the answer in school would be teach neither, or teach both….just as some believe God shouldn’t be taught in school, others don’t subscribe to the “big bang THEORY” either……just some other thoughts to consider.

I pondered a response for a bit, but decided there was too much wrong with that to deal with in a Facebook status thread, so I bowed out by just saying “Too much for me to get into on a Facebook thread.” [His name] had one more go, however, with this [sic]…

[His name] Bear in mind, the God of Islam is the same God of Christianity and Judaism, and the Qu’aran speaks of peace (and violence) as much as the Bible does. Also remember that “one nation, under God” is a phrase that did not officially exist in the US until the 1950’s to seperate us from the “godless” communists. I generally keep my opinions to myself, but this post conveniently comes the day after an election wherein I am once again denied the equal rights (thanks, Maine) of the majority because of the loud and powerful religious right’s influence on government and voters. Anyway, being thought provoking can be upbeat and lifting. I’m not trying to insult anyone, and I’ll say no more.

Good for him. Not only did he call out one of the misconceptions in [Supporter’s] post (The “One nation, under God” part), but he called out the religious right’s negative influence on human rights in this country… with a perfect timely example.

[Supporter] is also misinformed about evolution and creationism (and the big bang theory, it seems), saying that if creationism is a religious theory, then evolution should be a “religious theory.” Those who know anything about evolution (or science) will automatically recognize that statement as absurd, but it’s one that is heard all too often. When people can’t discern the difference between biblical “magic” and scientific theory, it’s a pretty glaring sign that the educational system in our country needs some serious help.

It’s frustrating, to say the least, and I cringed when I read [Supporter’s] post. I pulled back from commenting harshly, though, because she’s been a friend for a long time and I value our friendship… and I think that particular Facebook thread was an inappropriate venue (it had been hijacked enough as it was).

Perhaps sending her a Richard Dawkins article would be a good starting point.

Preachy Comment Spam

I get email notifications when someone posts a comment on one of my posts and today, over the course of about an hour, I got 7 notifications that the same person was commenting. That’s great, I thought! Someone’s actually reading what I wrote and is taking the time to give their feedback!

As it turns out, “Truth seeker” is the commenter and it seems doubtful that he/she was actually reading my posts. All the comments were roughly the same, with bible quotes and preachy “God is great” declarations. Here’s an example.

God is sovereign creator of heaven and earth. He revealed Himself in His Word. He is in control and does His will. God is holy and man is sinful. In order to be in right relationship with God we must repent of our sins and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross in our place. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus died for us so that we could be reconciled to God. God knows our thoughts and examines our hearts. He knows if you believe in Him or not. When we die, we will each stand before God in judgment. Those who have humbled themselves before God will inherit eternal life. Those who have rejected God or denied His existence will be damned for all eternity. Don’t believe the lie that God does not exist. He has revealed Himself in His creation, the world and universe, and in our hearts and minds. If you truly ask God to reveal Himself to you, He will. Scripture says if you draw nigh to God, He will draw nigh to you. Jesus said, if you deny Him in this life, He will deny you before the Father. I encourage you to humble yourself before your Creator God before it’s too late. Answers to this life and all eternity are found in His Word. God bless.

All the comments are about the same length and vary only slightly in content, but share something in common (other than the religious proclamations). They all contribute nothing to the discussion in their respective articles.

I won’t post any more full comments because it would be redundant, but I just wanted to quote a few select lines [sic]. My comments are in blue, of course.

  • Evolution has never been proven. In over 100 years of studying evolution, science has been unsuccessful and monitoring the evolution of anything. In all their efforts, they cannot turn a dog into a cat or a fly into a misquito. [I think truthseeker was channeling Ray Comfort or Kirk Cameron there]
  • Many people waste their entire lives believing in lies. [Isn’t that an ironic statement?]
  • Faith is a lie is called foolishness. [I was amused by this typo]
  • Evolution is too unbelievable. The odds and likelihood of all necessary events to result in this perfectly balanced universe is ridiculous. [Evolution and the origins of the universe… more Comfort and Cameron]
  • Global warming claims are trickery used to divert funds to other people and nations. [Divert funds from where to where?]
  • All you have to do is believe what God tells you to believe. [So I should hear voices in my head and listen to them?]
  • I choose God and true biblical religion over any and everthing this world has to offer. I don’t have to worry about downloading my memory to a disk [so cool!!!] before I die because my Creator God has kept an account of my life.
  • I encourage you to read the Bible and pray that God will reveal Himself to you. [I did part one. Part two is contradictory]
  • God does not change, His does not waver. Therefore, truths 2,000 years ago are truths today. [So genocide, baby killing, blood sacrifices, and stonings for minor offenses are all still perfectly fine, then?]
  • Every human will one day die. [I can agree with that one]

If you want to read all the comments, here are the links to each one. I marked them all as spam (with “*spam*” at the top) so new visitors won’t confuse them with legitimate comments.

Cherry Picking, Scary Church Signs, Vague God, Creationism = Intelligent Design = Not Science, I am a believer and an atheist, Howse wants to reclaim the church